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Du Châtelet Prize

The Du Châtelet Prize in Philosophy of Physics celebrates excellence in philosophy of physics and promotes breadth across the field both historically and philosophically.

The Du Châtelet Prize in Philosophy of Physics is supported by Duke University in collaboration with Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.

2024 Call for Submissions

Topic: Physics in the writings of 19th century women


Submissions are invited on the writings of women in the nineteenth century that discuss or otherwise engage with the concepts, foundations, or methods of any area of physics, or with the nature and scope of physics itself. The topic should be construed broadly to include: any genre in which the women were writing; “physics” as understood then and/or now; both the experimental and the theoretical; and physics in relation to other areas of inquiry. Submissions may address the work of a single figure or multiple figures. We are interested in any work that from today’s perspective might be viewed as a contribution to philosophy of physics in the 19th century.

Committee: Katherine Brading, Joshua Eisenthal, Samuel Fletcher, Lydia Patton, Jennifer Whyte.

For more details please see the full Call for Submissions.


Laws and symmetries in the practice of physics


This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Nancy Cartwright’s highly influential book, How the Laws of Physics Lie. In honor of this, we invite submissions addressing the ways laws and symmetries are deployed in the practice of doing physics: in experiment, in theory, and in the interplay between them. The scope is intended to be broad, encompassing the variety of theoretical, practical, and explanatory roles that laws and symmetries play in physics.


Winners: Marta Bielinska and Caspar Jacobs for their paper “A Philosophical Introduction to Hidden Symmetries in Physics” 


Marta’s and Caspar’s paper investigates examples of so-called “hidden symmetries”, widely used in physics, arguing that such symmetries pose new challenges for philosophical accounts of symmetries and for “symmetry-to-reality” inferences.


Marta is currently a doctoral student at the University of Oxford. Before this, she completed, also at the University of Oxford, the MSc in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics (2022) with a dissertation on hidden symmetries, and the BPhil in Philosophy (2021) with a dissertation on spacetime orientability. In addition to her work on foundations of spacetime, she is also interested in philosophical accounts of laws of nature and scientific practice, as well as contemporary ontology. 


Caspar is currently a university lecturer at Leiden University. He defended his DPhil at the University of Oxford in 2021 with a dissertation on the interpretation of symmetries in physics. In addition to his work on symmetries, Caspar is also interested in the metaphysics of quantities and early modern history and philosophy of science, especially the work of Du Châtelet.

Committee: Elena Castellani, Nina Emery, Bas van Fraassen, Marc Lange


Descartes' Metaphysical Physics


Ovidiu Babeș, “Mixed Mathematics and Metaphysical Physics:

Descartes and the Mechanics of the Flow of Water” 


Roger Ariew, Dan Garber, Dana Jalobeanu, Alison Peterman, Sophie Roux



Measurement practices in the physical sciences: correlation, calibration and stabilization


Jamee Elder, “On the ‘direct detection’ of gravitational waves"

Miguel Ohnesorge, “Pluralising measurement: Physical geodesy's measurement problem and its resolution” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 96 51-67, 2022


Alisa Bokulich, Hasok Chang, Daniel Mitchell, and Wendy Parker


Mathematics as a tool of conceptual innovation in physical theory and/or experiment, 1780-1890


Joshua Eisenthal, "Hertz's Mechanics and a unitary notion of force” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 90 226-234. 2021


Janet Folina, Doreen Fraser, Lydia Patton and Sheldon Smith



How matter acts on matter: unsolved problems in the philosophy of physics, 1700-1760


Adwait Parker, “Newton on Active and Passive Quantities of Matter” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 84 1-11. 2020


Katherine Brading, Mary Domski, Andrew Janiak, Chris Smeenk, and George Smith

"Physics is an immense building that surpasses the powers of a single man. Some lay a stone there, while others build whole wings... still others survey the plan of the building, and I, among them."

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